December 31, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoWhat scares you? Spiders? Snakes? Flutes? Or, as it’s called in clinical speak, aulophobia? Me, I have a palpable fear of heights. I don’t know if it’s strictly acrophobia or a combination of cremnophobia (fear of precipices), anemophobia (fear of air drafts or wind) and climacophobia (fear of stairs, climbing, or of falling downstairs). What I do know is that when I walk on exposed ridges, I’m overcome by vertigo. I feel dizzy and off-balance, and I have a tendency to freeze up.For this very reason, I’d never made it to the top of Highland Bowl. I’d trudged past the main gate multiple times only to become frozen in my tracks when I reached the rock outcropping a little farther up. The trail snakes to the right and narrows, with the rocks hemming you in on your left and a frightening overhang just feet away on your right.Every time I’d set foot out onto that ledge, I’d become paralyzed, losing faith in my footing and my ability to safely navigate my way to the other side of the rocks. I’d turn back and drop in on Whip’s Veneration, cursing myself the entire way down.I know, I know, it’s pretty pathetic. I’ve been told this numerous time by friends and co-workers, all of whom have assured me that I’m entirely capable of walking those narrow 30 feet or so.Finally, on Saturday, there was no turning back. To climb the bowl, I had to go with someone who I’ve never seen scared of anything – my oldest brother.I don’t know what it is, but anything always seems safer after I’ve watched him do it first. That includes jumping off the high dive, sneaking out the basement window or lying to Mom and Dad when they happen to catch you sneaking back in. It’s just the way older brothers and younger brothers work, I guess. After my brother and his wife had crossed, I followed right behind. I never took my eyes off my feet until I heard my brother yell back to me, “Look up, you’re done with the hard part.” And he was right. The rest of the hike was a grind, but I enjoyed every minute of it.Once up top, we stood together for a few pictures then hung out to enjoy the view before we dropped in for our best run of the day.Considering my history with the bowl, I’d say it’s my favorite run during the two seasons I’ve lived here.